Say It with Me: Worldview

worldview apologetics

This is the first installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

At first glance, worldview seems like an arcane topic reserved only for the more philosophically minded. Discussing worldviews can get tedious and sometimes downright arbitrary. However, worldview thinking is becoming increasingly necessary for Christians to understand the world around them properly. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Worldview”

Would-be and Wouldn’t-be Apologists

What would million dollars look like? Well, that depends.

If you want to see a million dollars in $100 bills, I am afraid it is not all that impressive, fitting into an over-sized briefcase. If you wanted to see a million in $20 bills, it is a bit less underwhelming. At least it would be something that could qualify as an actual pile of money.

However, if you wanted to see a million dollars in $1 bills, now that actually looks like a lot of money. At Chicago’s Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum, a rotating “cube of cash” is on display. One million $1 bills fill a 64 cubit foot case and weights over a ton. As a single stack, it would reach nearly four hundred feet in height.

What does Christian apologetics look like? Well, that depends. Continue reading “Would-be and Wouldn’t-be Apologists”

How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?

Nonbelievers give many reasons for believing that God does not exist. Some say they cannot reconcile modern scientific thinking with belief in God. Some say that there is not enough historical evidence.

Then there is an entire category of questions about God with a different common theme: judging God’s character and actions. In this category, questions like the following are asked:

These are certainly legitimate questions, which Christian thinkers over the centuries have treated with care. But, notice the common denominator. The real alternatives assumed in these questions are not whether God exists, but whether he is justified in what he does, assuming he exists.

Here’s the thing…

Discussing God’s existence and judging God’s character are two very different endeavors. Yet, people act as though how God exists determines if God exists. It is as if they are saying only when God’s character and actions are acceptable to us will his existence be plausible to us. Continue reading “How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?”

Why: A Biblical Solution

Christian Theology Apologetics Worldview

How do we deal with the whys of this generation or any generation for that matter?

As always, the conflict with the cultural current drives us back to an ancient book. God has blessed us with His Word which transcends all cultural whims and addresses every cultural concern. In the middle of the Apostle Peter’s first letter, we find a command, which presents a solution to the question at hand, why.

Continue reading “Why: A Biblical Solution”

Driven by the Problem of Evil

concentration camp problem of evil

It is a riddle that philosophers have pondered, skeptics have flaunted, and theologians have debated for centuries. If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why is evil so rampant?

If God is all-powerful, then he would be more than able to rid the world of evil.

If God is all-good, then he would be more than willing to rid the world of evil.

But, there is evil in this world. Everywhere, it seems. So, what’s the deal?

Is God able but not willing? Then he is not good. Is God willing but not able? Then he is not powerful. Either way, he is not God.

Popularly attributed to 4th-century philosopher Epicurus, and popularized by 18th-century philosopher David Hume, this form of the problem of evil poses the question: How can we reconcile the existence of evil with the existence of God? In other words, if God exists, why is there so much evil? The philosophical/theological debate rages to this day.

However, the problem of evil is a problem for everyone, not just philosophers and theologians. We see horrific things happening every day. When we are on the receiving end of that evil, we find that no amount of philosophy can soothe, and no amount of argumentation can heal. In those movements, believers are left with their faith shaken, and unbelievers are left with their doubts confirmed. The pain and suffering leave us wanting, not an argument, but an answer.

So, is the evil we see in the world the indictment against God’s existence that so many for so long have said it is?

Here’s the thing…

Everyone is driven by the problem of evil. By which direction does it drive us?

Evil, both moral and natural, with all the pain and suffering it causes, does not drive us away from God. It drives us towards God.

Continue reading “Driven by the Problem of Evil”

No Blind Faith Here

A Popular Misconception

For many people, the term “blind faith” is redundant. The assumption about religious faith is that a sort of blindness is inherent, and often intentional.

Nonreligious people cite famous quotes to confirm this concept of faith. Mark Twain once quipped, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Ayn Rand wrote, “Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.” In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian identified his two favorite definitions of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t.”

Of course, Richard Dawkins echoes the sentiment: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

By definition—at least by popular definition—faith is blind.

Consequently, faith and reason are often seen as incompatible, mutually exclusive terms. They are treated as opposite approaches to finding the truth about the big questions of life. On a popular level, many unbelievers assume that if a person is rational, they have no need for faith. On a personal level, many believers assume that if a person has faith, there is no need for reason.

But why do we assume that there is this great divide between faith and reason?

Here’s the thing…

I don’t know.

The Bible describes a marriage between faith and reason, not a divorce. Besides, everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

A Biblical Definition

The Bible is incredibly clear in its definition of faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Notice the parallel use of the terms substance and evidence in connection to that which is hoped for and that which is not seen. According to the Bible, faith is a substantiated assurance of what we hope is true. It is a justified confidence in what we cannot see.

The modern misconception of faith drops these two key qualifiers. Faith is misrepresented as merely something that we hope for but cannot see in the absence of substantial evidence. But, this is not the Biblical concept. The Bible defines faith as hope substantiated by evidence for that which we cannot see.

Not every element of Christian belief is seen as clearly as a science experiment or understood as plainly as a mathematical proof. Nevertheless, that does not mean Biblical faith is blind. In fact, it is concept with which we are very familiar.

Every day in courts of law, judges and juries observe substantial arguments and examine evidence for events they did not see. Justice may be blind in the sense that it is impartial and objective, but we would certainly hope that our justice system is not blind in coming to a verdict.

Everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

Many Christians grow uncomfortable when there is talk of evidence and rationality in support of faith. They assume the misconception that there is an inverse relationship between faith and reason. They feel that if they depend too much on arguments for their faith, then they must not have much of it. They feel more like the Apostle Thomas and less like the Apostle John.

However, Biblical faith is not weakened by substantial evidence; it is strengthened by it. The more evidence a jury hears, the more assurance they have in their verdict. Similarly, the more we examine the evidence and rationality of the Christian faith, the stronger our assurance becomes.

Christian theologians have always been careful to define not only what we believe but also what we mean when we say we believe. For centuries, theologians have outlined faith using three Latin words:

  • Notitia (as in, to take notice of) refers to the content that one must be aware of in order to believe.
  • Assensus (as in, to assent to) refers to the assent to the truth of that content.
  • Fiducia (as in, to place faith in) refers to the commitment of trust in that belief, what we call faith.

A perfect example of this outline in Scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us (i.e., notitia), ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth (i.e., assensus), the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (i.e., fiducia).

It must be said that saving faith is not simply notitia and assensus, knowing of and agreeing with the gospel. James warns us (almost sarcastically, I might add) that it’s great if we believe there is one God, but so do demons (James 2:19). The step that raises belief to to the level of saving faith is the trust in what we have known to be true.

Nevertheless, Paul reminds how important notitia and assensus are:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (fiducia) shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (assensus) and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (notitia)

Romans 10:13-14

Presumably, blind faith would be fiducia without notitia and assensus, trust with no content or evident truthfulness. It is certainly possible for a person to claim Christianity in blind faith. However, blind faith is not Biblical faith.

A Universal Application

What is amazing about the Biblical definition of faith is that it has a universal application. Every belief system has its way of seeing the world, the content of its worldview. What’s more, every worldview reaches the point at which they commit to their beliefs in faith, stepping out in hope toward things unseen.

This, of course, applies to religious people. But it also applies to the nonreligious.

In our secular culture, many people reject ideas about God as meaningless, only accepting ideas that have been scientifically proven. At least, that is what they would like to think. But there is a problem. The idea that only empirically verifiable statements can be true is itself not empirically verifiable. It is a belief that must be assumed…wait for it…by faith. This is a major dilemma for those who claim to need no faith.

Even when someone attempts to build a worldview with no need for a step of faith, it is a step of faith to believe they can do so.

As if that were not enough irony, those who assume that faith is merely a belief in the absence of evidence do not have much evidence for that assumption. Sure, there are those “you just need to have more faith” believers, but they are an unfortunate exception and not the Biblical or historical rule. Just consider how Christian thinkers over the centuries have discussed the correlation between faith and reason.

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true. – Justin Martyr

But they are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ. – Augustine of Hippo

The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason. – Blaise Pascal

He that speaketh against his own reason speaks against his own conscience, and therefore it is certain that no man serves God with a good conscience who serves him against his reason. – Jeremy Taylor

Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. – Charles Spurgeon

Regularly, the Prophets appealed to evidence to justify belief in the biblical God or in the divine authority of their inspired message: Fulfilled prophecy, the biblical fact of miracles, the inadequacy of finite pagan deities to be the cause of such a large, well-ordered universe compared to the God of the Bible, and so forth. They did not say, “God said it, that settles it, and you should believe it!” They gave a rational defense for their claims. – J.P. Moreland

Blind faith? Not here.

A Hopeful Correction

Christian apologist Greg Koukl, explains further why there is no conflict between faith and reason:

Reason assesses, faith trusts. No conflict. The opposite of faith is not reason; the opposite of faith is unbelief, or lack of trust. The opposite of reason is not faith; the opposite of reason is irrationality.

So, what can we do to correct the popular misconception of faith?

Proclaim our notitia.

Several times over the course of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon compared the Bible and the gospel to a caged lion. He noted a pattern that the less people preach and teach God’s Word, the more concerned they seem to be with protecting it. He painted the picture of how silly it would be to put a lion in a cage out of concern for its protection. Spurgeon’s point: you don’t defend a lion; you let it loose. At the end of one of these illustrations, he stated, “The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.”

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the object of our faith.

Demonstrate our assensus.

William Lane Craig is a world-class philosopher, a renowned apologist, and a Baptist Sunday school teacher (which is awesome!). He commented on the importance of Christians understanding the truthfulness on which their faith rests.

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true.

Amen, Dr. Craig. Amen.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the results of our faith.

Embrace our fiducia.

Everyone everywhere ultimately has faith in something. The pantheistic East has faith that everything is spiritual, and that reason is largely useless. The secular West has faith that everything is physical, and that spirituality is largely pointless. Yet both sides only see half of reality.

The gospel of Christ is powerful enough to break through that which blinds both sides and to fulfill that which both sides lack. We ought to embrace our faith and take it to the world.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the way to our faith.


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Apologetics: Getting to the Gospel as Soon as Possible

The Definition of Apologetics

Hearing the word apologetics, many think of our modern meaning of apologizing for something as an expression of regret. This could be particularly confusing since we are talking about Christian apologetics. Are we implying that we regret being Christians? Of course not!

Ironically, apologetics means quite the opposite of “apologizing” for something.

The word comes from a Greek compound word. The prefix “apo-” indicates separation or deflection of something. The word “logos” is where we get our term “logic.” So, the Greek word apologia paints a picture of something that is being deflected by way of logic. The most common definition of the word apologetics is “a reasoned defense.” (Think Jude 3.)

On a side note, think of the next time you needed to apologize to someone. Imagine how the conversation would go if you offered “a reasoned defense” of your actions!

There are apologists everywhere. Every political position, sports fan base, and brand loyalty has its apologists. Every religion has apologists who defend their faith as the one true religion. Even the nonreligious have apologists who defend the secular mindset that all religions are ultimately wrong.

Continue reading “Apologetics: Getting to the Gospel as Soon as Possible”